Managing Annual Leave during Covid-19

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Signals from Government ahead of the next announcement on Covid-19 restrictions on 5th April indicate there will be little change in relation to travel, certainly travel abroad this summer season. Many employees were no doubt waiting for better news before deciding on what to do about booking holiday leave. In this article Derek McKay, Managing Director of Adare Human Resource Management has some advice for employers trying to manage annual leave requests and answers some questions that employers might have.

Annual leave entitlements

All employees, regardless of being full-time, part-time, temporary or casual are entitled to annual leave under the Organisation of Working Time Act. 1997. Under the Act, the employer can determine the timing of an employee’s annual leave, providing the required one month’s notice, taking the requirements of the business and the employee’s health and wellbeing in terms of rest and recreation into consideration.

One would expect that there will be an influx of requests for annual leave over the summer months so employers should check any policies they have referencing annual leave to double-check they remain compliant with their own policies and procedures. In some situations, employers may also have to manage annual leave that has been carried over from last year. In this instance, we advise employers to be as flexible as possible to accommodate requests, particularly during these very usual times.

What entitlements do employees who have been laid off or put on short time have in relation to annual leave? Employees who have been laid off during Covid-19 continue to accrue public holidays during the first 13 weeks on lay off. Employees do not accrue annual leave while laid off.

For short time, employees must have worked a minimum of 40 hours in the five weeks prior to the public holiday for an entitlement and accrue annual leave pro-rata.

Can an employer refuse an annual leave request because the employee is travelling outside the country? No; employers can certainly encourage compliance with Government guidance and Public Health advice in terms of travelling outside the country but employers cannot refuse an annual leave request because an employee is travelling abroad.

However, what might be relevant in the employer’s decision-making is the restrictions on the employee upon returning back to Ireland in terms of quarantining in certain circumstances or 14-day movement restrictions and the impact either will have on the business depending on the sector and if the employee is remote working. This may give the employer a business reason to refuse the request.

What if an employee gets Covid-19 while on annual leave? If an employee shows any of the symptoms of Covid-19, they should in the first instance contract their GP. They should also contact their employer to explain the situation and not return to work for 14 days after they first experienced symptoms.

Employees are entitled to sick pay if it is in their terms and conditions of employment. If it the employer does not pay sick pay, employees should apply for the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.

Can an employer ask employees to take annual leave during Covid-19 for business reasons? An employer can request that annual leave is taken but should be done in consultation with the employees and in consideration of the organisation’s needs. This may seem like a practical option if the organisation is experiencing challenges but we recommend that employees are not forced to take all of their leave entitlements as an employer must also consider the employee’s health and wellbeing in terms of rest and recreation.

What are employees entitled to if an employer is availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme? If an employer is availing of the TWSS but employees are still working their normal hours, then employees still accrue public holidays as normal and are entitled to their statutory annual leave based on the hours worked.


This article just covers a small number of questions employers might have in relation to employees and their annual leave. If you have a specific question, please contact Shannon Chamber HR but in addition to some of the advice above, we also recommend that employers communicate with employees about taking annual leave.

It is also worth reminding employees of the terms of the annual leave policy, particularly if there are restrictions in carrying over unused leave.

As already outlined, employers can expect an influx of requests when restrictions around travel at home and abroad become clearer. So, now is the time to start managing the requests to ensure there is no overlap or gaps in terms of the organisation’s needs.

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